Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Winthrop men, women top picks in polls

After a one-year hiatus, Winthrop men’s basketball team and Liberty women’s basketball squads were chosen first in the Big South Conference’s annual preseason poll, as voted by the league's head coaches and media panel. The announcements were made today at the Embassy Suites hotel in Concord as part of the 2008-09 Basketball Tip-Off Media Luncheon.

Winthrop, which won its fourth consecutive Big South championship last season, received nine first-place votes and 202 total points to finish first in the 10-team race in 2008-09. The Eagles have won 20 games in each of the last four seasons, and return six letterwinners and two starters from last year’s club. The men’s preseason balloting was highly contested, as seven squads received at least one first-place vote.

Radford, which finished seventh in 2007-08, is predicted second this year after receiving seven first-place votes and 189 total points. It is the Highlanders’ highest placing in the preseason poll since being predicted second in 2001-02. New Big South member Gardner-Webb was third in the voting with 188 points (three first-place votes), ahead of No. 4 Liberty (two first-place votes and 148 points).

High Point received the fifth spot in the poll with 132 points and one first-place vote, while Charleston Southern was predicted sixth with 128 points (one first-place vote). VMI received the remaining first-place vote from the panel and finished seventh with 110 points, just ahead of No. 8 Coastal Carolina (107 points).

UNC Asheville, which was the Big South’s co-regular-season champion in 2007-08, was predicted to finish ninth with 83 points. New member Presbyterian, which is eligible for the men’s basketball regular-season title, received the 10th and final spot in the poll with 33 points.

On the women’s side, Liberty received 17 of the 19 first-place votes cast and finished with 169 total points to repeat as champion in 2008-09. The Lady Flames welcome back eight letterwinners and three starters from last year’s NCAA tournament squad.

Winthrop, which is coming off a school Division I record for wins (20), was picked second behind Liberty with 143 points (one first-place vote) – the Eagles’ highest spot ever in the preseason poll. The previous best was third in 1996 and 1997.

High Point finished third in the voting with 129 points, while Radford received the remaining first-place vote and placed fourth with 116 points. UNC Asheville is predicted to finish fifth (75 points), while Coastal Carolina and new Conference member Gardner-Webb tied for the sixth spot with 73 points each.

Charleston Southern finished eighth (55 points) and new League member Presbyterian, which is eligible for the women’s basketball regular-season title, rounds out the preseason poll in ninth-place with 22 points from the panel.